In an interview with Dance Channel TV, Yvonne Mounsey said her eight decades in ballet began far from Los Angeles. “I started dancing in South Africa, where I was born, when I was a child. And it wasn’t long before I went to England and started studying there and doing all my Royal Academy exams,” she said.
Mounsey died Saturday of complications from cancer, her family said.
Along with her British training, Mounsey also learned from the top Russian choreographers of the mid 20th century. George Balanchine asked her to join his New York City Ballet. Mounsey’s daughter Allegra Clegg said her mother’s interpretations during this period involved much more than masterful technique.
“The reviews of her when she danced “The Prodigal Son” in New York City Ballet, yes it was done before, and people had danced it before her but she embodies that role, the sensuality of it, just the artistry,” Clegg said.
In 1967, Yvonne Mounsey founded Westside Ballet in Santa Monica to teach children and adults. During the Dance Channel interview she expressed pride in the dancers who went on to careers in ballet - and those who did not.
“We’ve had many go become famous surgeons and doctors and artists and writers, it’s just amazing. And I think in part it’s the discipline,” Mounsey said.
She maintained that discipline until three months ago. Clegg said her mother was teaching scores of children for her company’s production of “The Nutcracker” in December. “Her friend called her a 22-year-old with wrinkles,” Clegg said.